Campaigners reacted angrily on Monday to the removal of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen from a list of groups violating children’s rights, in a report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The Saudi-led coalition was removed from UN blacklist despite the fact that the children and people of Yemen are on the brink of extinction, amid a long blockade of the country by its immediate neighbour Saudi Arabia.
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 2, 2016
“The Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen will be delisted for the violation of killing and maiming, following a sustained significant decrease… due to air strikes,” said the UN’s newly-published annual report on children in conflict zones.
It said the toll had fallen since an agreement signed in March 2019.
Saudi-led coalition removed from UN blacklist: what is the coalition?
The coalition intervened in 2015 in Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. It has been widely blamed for civilian casualties in bombing raids that campaigners say have pushed the country deeper into crisis.
The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.
As president, Mr Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by jihadists, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of security personnel to Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.
The Houthi movement (known formally as Ansar Allah), which fought a series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade, took advantage of the new president’s weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.
Disillusioned with the transition, many ordinary Yemenis – including Sunnis – supported the Houthis, and in late 2014 and early 2015 the rebels gradually took over the capital Sanaa.
Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab states began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, ending Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi’s government.
Saudi-led coalition removed from UN blacklist amid anger by rights groups
Human Rights Watch denounced Guterres for dropping the coalition from the “list of shame,” saying he was “ignoring the UN’s own evidence of continued grave violations against children.”
— Ahmed Jahaf احمد جحاف (@A7medJa7af) June 22, 2016
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said that “by absolving the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition of any responsibility for killing and maiming children in Yemen, the UN Secretary-General has left children vulnerable to further attacks.”
It said the coalition was responsible for the death or injury of 222 children in Yemen last year.
Inger Ashing of Save the Children called it a “shocking decision” by Guterres.
But the secretary general’s envoy for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba, said the UN had come “under no pressure” from Saudi Arabia and that the removal from the list was based on data.
Arab coalition: a history of infringing on children’s rights?
In 2016 the coalition was briefly included on the annual list before a threat by Saudi Arabia to cut off funding to UN programs forced a reversal.
The following year, after Guterres assumed the UN leadership, the coalition was placed in a sub-section of the report created for those making efforts to avoid deaths of children. It remained there in 2018 and 2019.
The report, which reviews several conflicts worldwide each year, said 4,019 children were verified as having been killed and more than 6,000 maimed in 2019.
The numbers were similar to 2018, according to the UN.
Read more: Thanks to Corona, Yemen sees peace: UN Envoy
The report partially removed the Myanmar armed forces, called Tatmadaw, from the blacklist.
They no longer appear for recruitment of children but remain on the list for their death, mutilation and rape.
Guterres cited “a continued significant decrease in recruitment, ongoing prosecutions and an agreement to continue to trace and release cases.”
Save the Children described the move as “premature and dangerous.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.